MLK Quote, 1967

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans…These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro, there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.” -Martin Luther King, Jr

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Politics of Black Hair (part 1): Black Hair and Petting Zoo’s

As a young girl my mother’s decision to make me wear my hair in it’s natural state (without any chemical products) largely made me an anomaly amongst my caucasian friends but a symbol of celebration for its length and volume amongst my black friends.

I would grow up to expect the “oohing” and “aahing” of non-African’s at the sight of my hair, followed by the occasional, “can I touch it?” or “how often do you wash it?”. I will admit, some experiences were better than others but not one left me feeling necessarily good about myself or the attention that my hair provided me simply because I did not see individuals of other races being riddled with questions about the “management” of their hair. Disclaimer: In making these statements, I do not attempt to speak for the entire Black race or individuals who share hair textures that deviate from silky and straight. Although my experiences concerning my hair stem far beyond the time I have spent in the United States, I will have to admit that living in the US has opened up me to several new dimensions of the black hair discussion.

The attention that black hair garners whether in it’s natural state or in other styles such as wigs, crotchet braids or braiding extensions has often left me weary. Weary of explaining the “how’s” and the “whys”, weary of defending that black women’s decision on how they choose to wear their hair should be left to each woman as an individual and not a collective and weary of feeling like an animal at a petting zoo. The general inability for black hair to simply exist without question or analysis is frustrating, to say the least, and although there is so much discussion on the topic, so much ignorance still pervades the issue. In her internationally acclaimed novel, Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie demonstrates the difficulties that the protagonist, Ifemelu faces in deciding how to wear her hair and the consequences that arise from either wearing it naturally or using chemical products. Although Adichie helped to provide a platform for the discussion of the politicization of black hair, much more needs to be done. So my advice to anyone who feels the urge to grab a braid or quiz a black woman about the texture of her hair is to Stop! you are not at the petting zoo.Black Hair Collumn

On this seemingly fruitless journey, we have been waiting.

Haltingly going neither backwards nor upwards-

Floating between the intermediary of who we dreamed  to become

and

that which our reflections mockingly produce.

we make gods of our bodies

and starve passion through the unwritten literature of our souls.

we are searching,

searching perhaps for that which we lost long before this journey began.

searching greater still, for that which our hands have not formed

nor our minds fathomed.

And They tell us-

that we are dreaming larger than we can become-

Because becoming has never been

in our power-

 

Paradox Unraveled

I know she often thinks of the beauty of death.

As she lays down her weary body

That once swayed gracefully from side to side

That once paid homage to the goddess of vitality.

But she is now weary and withdrawn-

Withdrawn from the world and withdrawn from herself

Unable to recognize the reflection of the ghost before her

She weeps quietly,

Inwardly

It is the inward pain that has devoured her

It came silently but knowingly

Knowing the destruction it would cause and the

Disarray that would be the final result

And as she lays down her weary body

I want to reach out and pull her

Close to me

Close to something

Living-

Because life is what she has lost

Because life is what she has used to barter

Because life is what she deserves to have.

But she is weary now

Weary of living.

The art of unliving

Of always giving of herself

Is one she has perfected

Thus, she no longer knows

What it means to live whole

And not,

as a sacrifice.

As she lays down her weary body

Her eyes grow distant and wide

Searching for her home above the heavens,

her place among the stars.

Perhaps, this is really living

She has found peace in this paradox

Of being dead to find life

I want to reach out and pull her

Close to me

But there is futility embroidered around this effort

She has found something-

Something much more potent than life itself

Mother, A wonderful Headache you gave me

And Mother,

You only ever taught me to love and to be true,

Assuring me that this was enough armor to meet the world with.

And Mother,

You prepared me to hope in the stars and pray to the winds.

And Mother,

You promised that faith could conquer all battles.

And Mother,

You made me understand the pain of others before my own.

And Mother,

You taught me to sooth the wounds on the backs of my foes.

And Mother,

You showed me that wisdom would always dwell in the rows of cornrows that lay upon my head.

And Mother,

You sang the hymns on the misery of wars un-fought.

And Mother,

You decorated my childhood with stories of the evils of men.

But Mother,

You taught me to be silent too soon and

too often.

Beautiful Black Shadow

I am the whispers between the arch of the backless gown,
The beautiful black shadow that lingers
in the deserted alleyways.
I am the apartheid of femininity
the war on women,
and the voice shouting above the train.
I bow to your order,
Shedding myself as I go along.
Bringing gifts of silence to my matrimony of selves,
Holding within, thoughts of flight, of dreams, of hope.
I am the many who drift along the edges of this globe,
gliding over the circumference of existence,
trading in goods of sexual prowess and the need
to be loved.
Within myself, I see mirrors of who was, who is and-
who could never be.
I pay homage to the black sisters who wish themselves yellow,
Who pray chemicals over their kinky crowns,
who lift thighs high in salute to an identity
they have been thrusted.
I am the whispers, the prayers, the moans.
I am without but yet somewhere I am within.
Somewhere within, I am the beautiful black shadow that talks-
in the background.

Consequence of Humanity

What then is the price of innocence?
When color translates power
Where virginity is bought online
And bank notes speak the language of diplomacy fluently
What then is the price of freedom?
When rapes are carried out as favours
Where beheadings can be watched in the privacy of bedrooms
And oil barrels whisper tales of genocide
What then shall we tell our maker?
Shall it be the innocent blood spilt that will drown us?
Or will we each tell our own tale of evil and sacrifice alone?
But as the forgotten toss and turn beneath us.
And human shields of ignorance stand tall.
We will sit one day and ask
Has it all been worth it?